Improving Teamwork in Your Business

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Most of us groan when we hear the word ‘team building’ and many of us would prefer, most of the time, to work on our own with as little input from others as possible, but if you own a business, you really do need to get onboard with the whole teamwork thing.

Why? Well, not only does a team that works together get on better, which makes the working environment better but employees who work in a team, collaborating and who have developed collaborative competency, tend to be more creative too. Oh, there’s also the fact that working as a team can vastly improve productivity too.

Sold on the benefits of teamwork? Here are the conditions you’ll need to create if you want to fester a culture of positive teamwork in your workplace:

Lead By Example

You might be the big boss woman, but that doesn’t mean that you should treat yourself as being above the employees and it certainly doesn’t mean that you should cloister yourself away in your office for the duration of the working day. No, if you want to foster a culture of teamwork, then you need to lead by example and make it the normal; the done thing in your office. You do that simply by collaborating with your employees as often as you can. Obviously, there are going to be times when this isn’t possible (I’m sure you’re a busy woman with lots of meetings and stuff to attend), but when the opportunity presents itself, don’t let it pass you by.

Facilitate Positive Communication

By positive communication, I don’t mean that you should banish your employees from saying anything that isn’t positive. What I do mean is that you should do everything you can to ensure that your teams have easy ways to communicate with each other and that they have the skills to communicate their ideas, issues, and concerns the right way, without upsetting anyone or getting confrontational.

Not only that, but you should make it know that your door is always open to them, and that should they need to talk about anything at all, all they need to is schedule some time with you, and you’ll have a nice cup of coffee and an eager ear waiting to listen to them. After all, if you don’t communicate with your employees, you won’t be able to ensure that all is going smoothly.

Assign Team Exercises

Instead of always assigning individual pieces of work to individual employees, why not get creative and start assigning more group tasks? It might be a bit different to what you’re used to doing and you might have to change your processes around, but it will get team members together, working towards a common goal, which will boost camaraderie and hopefully lead to some more creative solutions to those nagging problems that most businesses have.

Go on Team Building Events

Okay, so as I mentioned in the introduction, the mere mention of team building exercises is enough to have the average employee groaning, but when they do work they are pretty effective, and you can make them work by doing something your employees will actually appreciate. For example, instead of sending them out to a muddy field where they have to push their body to the very limits in a military style boot camp or build a raft out of sticks, send them on a wine tasting course or have them do something for charity. It’ll be much more enjoyable and worthwhile, and it will give them an incentive to take it seriously, get to know each other and build a strong team!

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Collaborate with Other Companies

If we’re talking collaborative competency, then we can’t not mention the role that other companies can play. It’s not only important to have your team working together well, but also being confident that your team can work well with others too. If they can work with a complementary company in your industry and not be competitive, but collaborative, then you pretty much know you’ve got it cracked and they’ll be able to work well in any situation (most of the time anyway). So, expose your team to other teams, have them collaborate and see how much better it makes everyone involved, at their jobs.

Set Some Ground Rules

You might be a fun boss; a boss who lets your employees simply get on with it as long as they know what they’re doing and they always meet their deadlines, but if you have more than just the one employee, as fun a boss this makes you, it might not be the best idea. Why? Because when you don’t have any ground rules, it can unintentionally look like you’re playing favorites. If, for example, you let one employee work from home because you know they work more productively that way, but you don’t allow another to do the same because they didn’t exactly impress you that one time they worked remotely, well it could cause friction in the office, even though you have very good reasons for your decisions. So, set out some rules and stick to them fairly across the board if you want your team to be able to work in harmony.

Have a Purpose

It doesn’t matter how friendly your team is or how much they enjoy working together if they don’t have a common purpose; a specific goal which they need to reach, then having them work together isn’t going to do very much good at all. They’ll have no motivation and no clear direction, and that could so easily lead to either coasting or arguments. So, never have a team work together if there is no clear reason for them to do so.

Reward Their Work

Employees who are rewarded for their hard work are usually more productive and often much happier. However, a lot of businessmen and women fail to reward teams in the same way that they do individuals. If you want to be a good boss and ensure that the standard of teamwork in your office remains high, then reward everyone who worked on a project, no matter how little their role, so that they can all feel part of the same team and all be proud of their achievements.

Collaborative Space

Time to throw out the cubicles and make your space open plan. Why? Because when your employee s can always see each other, they’re more likely to all talk, add their input to a project and get together to work on ideas, which will result in a stronger team and better work.

Of course, you should still make provisions for quiet, private space for those who need it to do sensitive work or work that requires a little more concentration, just make sure that you provide both where possible.

Don’t Force the Issue

The benefits of teamwork are numerous, but one of the worst things you can do as a business owner, is force the issue. No matter how hard you try, there are always going to be those few individuals who do not respond to any of the above, and who would really rather work on their own. If they’re good employees who are polite and get the job done, then leave them be. Sure, talk to them to see if there are any issues causing them to shy away from the group, but if not accept that they’re the lone wolf type and leave them be unless you want to risk losing an employee or screwing with your team dynamics completely.

Time to start building your team!

 

How To Improve Your Work-Life Balance When You Work From Home

When you work from home all the time, the boundaries between home and work life can become blurred, and although for some that’s not a problem, if you have a family and want to spend quality time with them, it can certainly be an issue. Here are some tips on how to improve that all-important work-life balance, and make the most of your kids while they’re young.

Get Dressed For Work

If you worked in an office, you would get up and get dressed in something appropriate, depending on the dress code. When you work from home, it’s tempting to stay in your pajamas all day or wear something like lounge pants or a tracksuit. If you wouldn’t wear it to an office, or a meeting, it’s best not to wear it at home. You don’t have to get dressed up in a suit or wear high heels all day, but make sure whatever you choose is smart, and not something you would necessarily wear when playing with the kids or heading out to the movies. If you are going to do those things after work, get changed – this will give you a mental distinction between work and play time.

Have A Separate Work Space

If you’re working from home, it’s best if you can have a workspace that is completely separate from the rest of the house. A spare bedroom used as a study is perfect, or a corner of another room that is usually vacant. Try to screen off your workspace if you can, so that when your ‘door’ is closed, your family know not to disturb you. Don’t fix up your desk in the same room that your kids will be playing or watching TV in – although it may seem like a good idea, so that you can keep an eye on what they’re doing, it will distract you, and you will be less productive, and that will result in you working longer hours. At the end of the day, you can close the office door behind you, and be with your family. Just don’t be tempted to open it again!

Automate

Like all large corporations, you’ll have to delegate some tasks to automation. You can, for instance, automate your social media posts and even your emails. What is marketing automation? Marketing automation is all about setting your marketing strategy, so that it works when you are either not, or are (most likely) concentrating on another pressing task. By automating some business processes, you’re able to somewhat forget about menial business processes (which, let’s face it, are quite boring in the first place).

Block Out Your Time

Depending on how you work, and what you want to achieve, you may find it useful to block out chunks of time for certain activities. You could work for two hours, then play with your children for an hour, then do some housework or other errands, then back to work for another set amount of time and so on. As long as you are focused on what you are doing and when you are doing it, and as long as you are realistic about how much you can – and need to – achieve, this can work very well indeed, and give you the ideal work-life balance.

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How to live a fertility-friendly life

Darja Wagner, PhD is a scientist specializing in vitamins and hormones. She is the author of the blog All About Egg Health: How to Get Pregnant After 35.  I talked to Darja about realities of female fertility and getting pregnant over the age of thirty-five. What is it that women should do better? Do we sufficiently understand the mechanics of our fertility cycles and biological clocks?

Q: Can a woman do anything to improve her fertility after the age of 35? And why do some doctors say the fertility of a women works as a clock, set to expire at some point?

That’s an old dogma and an outdated view on looking at female fertility. Thanks to recent advances and the past 20 years of research in reproductive medicine, we now understand ovaries and egg health much better.

The fact is, women of any age who wish to conceive should take the initiative and face their own, individual pre-conception issues. This means, instead of ignoring the environment in which a conception takes place, women who wish to conceive should undertake steps to make their bodies more baby-friendly.

A new way of looking at female fertility tells us that the time window before conception may be the most important one for the future health of the child.

In other words, the lifestyle of a woman, the diet she eats, whether she smokes or not, her supplements, exercise, and several other factors clearly impact the friendliness of her uterus towards growing a baby, the levels of energy available at the moment of the conception, and the capability to build a healthy embryo and baby.

This is good news, because it means the power goes back to women. Women are not helpless puppets with eggs that have an expiration date marked on them. Our understanding of female fertility has gone a long way and today you’ll hear many top fertility doctors saying that lifestyle interventions often work better than fertility treatments.

Q: So you’re saying that young women can decide to lead a fertility-friendly life and it’s up to them to decide and adopt the interventions which will support them in becoming the mothers and women they wish to be?

It’s important to understand that lifestyle interventions which specifically improve fertility bring results in most women, but not in all. In other words, there is no magic pill or a magic diet which works for all; lifestyle interventions should be individually adjusted to best support the fertility journey of each particular woman.

Female fertility is a continuum and changes over time. What works for a 25-year-old woman in a seemingly effortless way, might take time and investment in women who are 10-15 years older, and may not work at all in women whose fertility window has closed.

It’s a fact of life that women are born with all the eggs they will ever have and that a single most important factor determining egg quality in a woman is her age. This reality will not change any time soon. As women get older, both the quantity and quality of their eggs decline. This begins in a woman’s early 30s and becomes exponential in her early 40s.

Luckily, there are simple lifestyle interventions which can easily be implemented by all women who wish to capitalize on their remaining fertility and maximize their ovarian and egg health.

Q: Which steps should a young women undertake to best support her fertility? What is a fertility-friendly lifestyle?

As I advocate all over my blog, women should better understand their ovarian reserve, starting with how many eggs they have, how their fertile potential changes over time, and perhaps most importantly, which small lifestyle interventions that are scientifically proven to have a positive impact on female fertility can easily be implemented into their daily lives. This boils down to introducing small changes in one’s diet, drinking behaviour, supplements, and exercise.

Q: Are there other easy lifestyle interventions and shortcuts that women should follow to avoid facing infertility at any point in life?

Definitely. They are certainly less obvious then adapting small changes to one’s diet or drinking habits, but still very easy to understand and follow.

For example, women who wish to conceive should not be shy to take the initiative and find out the status of their ovarian reserve. Especially if they’re over 35, they should not wait longer than six months before having a few tests done.

I’m often amazed how many women don’t know the difference between a gynecologist and a reproductive endocrinologist, or which hormones they should check and why.

Another obvious thing which surprises many, is when I ask about the fertility history of their mothers. Ladies, talk to your moms! Ask them if there were any unusual fertility stories in your family. How was her diet while she was pregnant with you? Was she exposed to any extreme life circumstances, like radiation or severe stress? Did she smoke at that time? All this could affect your ovarian reserve and your egg quality.

Ask your mom at which age she entered menopause. If your mom entered menopause very early, such as her early 40s like mine did, it could mean your own eggs are disappearing twice as fast as in women whose mothers went into menopause late, as found in this recent study.

Another easy to implement habit is to know your fertility window with certainty. Whether a woman is trying to get pregnant or trying to avoid it, this is a very important piece of information.

Female fertility is made in a way that pregnancy is possible on only one single day in a month. So there is no way to overestimate the importance of women not missing this window of opportunity. For some women, determining ovulation means using simple LH-strips, which I personally find to be the greatest and simplest method and enables women to pin their ovulation to within several hours.

There are several other methods, but whatever you do, avoid fertility apps, similar technological, and medical over-kills. These things are helpful only to those who are earning money from them and have nothing to do with women connecting to their bodies and maximizing their natural fertility.

Darja Wagner, PhD is a scientist specializing in vitamins and hormones. She is the author of the blog All About Egg Health: How to Get Pregnant After 35, where she addresses fertility and getting pregnant for women of advanced reproductive age. In her one-on-one coaching sessions, she helps women apply the latest advances in reproductive biology to maximize their egg quality for higher chances of conception, either naturally or by means of assisted reproductive technologies. Her e-book How to Improve Egg Quality: The Smart Way to Get Pregnant is #1 on Amazon in the Reproductive Health category. She lives in Berlin with her husband and two sons.

Your Home Business Can’t Function As An Island

You will have heard, no doubt, of the old saying about no-one being an island. Well, the same is true of your business, and this is something which is especially important to think about if you run your business from home. A home business must not act as an island if it is to succeed in the long term – but what do we actually mean by that? Simply that you need to make sure you do not fall into the temptation of hiding away from the outside world, and operating only on your own terms. You might well be thinking that you would never do this anyway, but it can be surprisingly easy to fall into this trap. In this article, we are going to look at some of the ways you can ensure your business is functioning properly, without resorting to being something of an island.

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Keeping Office Hours

One of the main temptations when you work from home is to work over into the evenings or weekends. While you might well pride yourself on such industriousness, and probably with good reason, there is such a thing as working too much. You need to make sure that you don’t fall into the trap of working yourself to death, and one of the best ways to do this is to simply keep regular office hours. What those hours are is up to you, of course, but it is generally a good idea to stick to the normal office hours that other businesses will go by. You can extend them a little further if you feel it is necessary, but as long as you keep enough hours for yourself, you should find that this is the right kind of balance.

Believe it or not, it can actually be to the detriment of the business to allow your office hours to be too long. After all, when you overwork yourself, all you are really doing is ensuring that your quality of work will decline, and this is the last thing you want to happen. You need to work long and hard, yes, but more often than not you also need to make sure that you have regular breaks – otherwise your business might actually suffer as a result. Keeping office hours in line with other businesses will also help you to be able to communicate with them more easily, something which is likely to prove hugely important over the course of time, especially as you begin trying to reach out for partners.

From the beginning, be sure to keep regular office hours at all times, so that you can improve your output and keep your lines of communication open. You will find this hugely valuable.

Partnering Up With Other Businesses

Before long, it is likely that you will become aware of just how valuable it is to keep in close contact with other businesses, especially those who function in the same industry as you. The best way to do this is to partner up with them, and this is one of the things that a young business should consider doing early on regardless. But for the home business, it can have the added bonus of helping you to keep in close contact with the outside world, and this can be hugely rewarding and beneficial in the long run.

There is something to be said for ensuring that you choose the right businesses for partnering up with, however. You don’t want to get too close to an immediate rival, for a start, but you also don’t want to partner up with an organization which has very little or indeed nothing to do with your own. Therefore, be sure to spend a decent amount of time choosing your partnering businesses wisely. The better you partner up, the more likely it will actually benefit your own business in the long run too.

But the important thing is that you do it at all, and this means that you need to make sure you go out of your way to find a partner early on in the lifespan of your company, if you can manage it. When you find a decent partner, be sure to make the most of it – as the younger company, you have more to gain and less to lose, so be sure to do so at your earliest convenience. With the right partner, your business will function much more as a part of the world, even while being run from your spare bedroom. This is a powerful idea to get behind, so be sure that you do.

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Communicating With Other Businesses

You will also need to communicate with other businesses from time to time, and this can be something that can be surprisingly hard to get down right. However, it will likely be essential to master if you want to properly function as a home business,so you will need to make sure that you have all the proper manners of communicating with other businesses at your disposal. You might be surprised at just how many you will need to get hold of if you want to be able to properly communicate with other businesses – including some which you might have thought were antiquated or useless technologies.

To begin with the obvious things, you will need to have access to the internet so you can use email, messaging and social media to keep in contact with other businesses. But you will also need to look further afield, and this is where you might run into some of the more surprising items of technological communication which you need to get hold of. By way of example – it is likely that your home office does not have a fax machine. However, there will be a surprising number of other businesses who do, and often they will want you to communicate in this fashion. Fortunately, this does not necessarily mean that you will need to get hold of a fax machine in order to keep in touch with those organizations. Instead, you can simply use an online fax service – yes, they exist – and communicate this way. You might also find that others want to talk by phone, and this differs from the fax machine in that you should probably consider a phone system in your home to be an essential way of keeping in touch with the outside world. Be sure that you have one before you get too far into your business’ lifespan.

It is important to be able to keep in touch with other businesses – probably more important than you might have imagined – primarily because you will often need to partner up with them, or else speak to them when you are in need of outsourced services and so on. This issue will crop up again and again, so you must not overlook this essential and vital part of the whole process of running your business from home.

Speaking With The Customer

As well as communicating with other businesses, you will also more obviously need to be able to keep in touch with your customers – and with potential customers. Fortunately, most consumers these days are happy to communicate online, and this will make things much easier for you as a home business – but there will always be those who would rather, say, speak on the phone, so it is essential to keep all lines of communication open. You don’t want to lose customers just because you could not be reached, so make sure that you don’t fall into this common early trap. Be as available as you possibly can be if you want your business to thrive in just the right way and at the right time in your business career.

Networking

In order to really ensure that you are not going to be stuck indoors and away from the world, you should also make sure that you get out there and network from time to time. Networking is an essential aspect of the running of any business, and this is just as true for your home business as it is for any other. Therefore, be sure to use whatever opportunities you can find to network your business as well as you can. You might be surprised at just how many such opportunities there are once you start looking, and the more you make of them, the better off your business will be in the long term. It will also ensure that you do not get holed up in your home office for too long – something which can desperately take a toll on your business if you are not careful. The more you network, the better off you and your business will be in the future. You will also find that practising with networking will ensure that your business is more likely to become the home brand name that you really want it to be, so it will help with achieving your business goals as well. A good networker is generally a good business owner, so you should do this as well as you can and as often as possible.

How to protect your back when working from home

Working from home gives you the freedom to work where you like, but that may not always be good for your health. In fact, it could mean you end up with back or neck pain.

Sitting in the same position for hours on end is a risk for anyone with a desk job.  According to the British Chiropractic Association it’s the most common cause of back or neck pain in the workplace.

Unfortunately home workers often take this a step further by working slouched on the sofa or even in bed. Home may seem more comfortable than an office, but it could really pay to take some proactive measures to ensure your back stays healthy.

There are some simple steps you can take to avoid  back and neck pain:

  • Always work at a table or chair rather than a sofa or bed.
  • Osteopath Wini Thomas says ‘Remember to take frequent breaks as sitting for long periods puts a lot of strain on you neck and back.’
  • Take the opportunity to do some stretches whenever you can, for example when taking a break to make a drink or taking a phone call.
  • Use a detachable keyboard when working on a laptop.
  • Make sure you have a chair can be adjusted so that your work can be carried out at elbow height. It should also support your back, especially your lower back.
  • Avoid bending and twisting to reach items you need for your work.
  • If you can’t place your feet flat on the floor, get a foot rest.
  • If your chair has wheels, make sure it doesn’t slip. This could cause a fall.
  • If you experience pain for more than a few days, make sure you get it checked out by a doctor.

As a self-employed people we want to avoid time off sick because we don’t get paid unless we work! Luckily, taking a few easy precautions can reduce the risk of us suffering back pain.

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